JewishMOM Wendy Runge Released from Iowa Prison
JewishMOM of four, Wendy Runge of Minnesota, was released this past Friday from an Iowa prison after serving only about half a year of her 10-year prison sentence.
Wendy was sentenced in May 2011 of allegedly stealing tax incentives offered to filmmakers in Iowa. Wendy insists that every step she took was made with the step-by-step guidance of Tom Wheeler, director of the Iowa Film Office, as well as other employees of the office.
Debbie Maimon and R&R Levitin of Yated Neeman report: “Wheeler was among six officials in Iowa fired or forced to quit over allegations they mismanaged the film tax credit program…
“Wheeler had guided and mentored Wendy and other producers on how to take advantage of the tax incentives. That advice had turned out to be disastrous for her and many others who were now accused of abusing the program…”
After losing her appeal this past February, Wendy reported to an Iowa prison to begin serving a 10 year sentence. While in prison, Wendy missed the bar mitzvah of her youngest son, Zecharia, this past May.
B”H, this past Friday, Wendy appeared before Iowa’s Parole Board. After looking over her case, the judge explained, ““Had I presided over your case, it would have been much different” and immediately freed her from prison on 2 years parole. She even made it home in time for Shabbat…
Debbie Maimon and R&R Levitin of Yated Neeman report: “While we were speaking to Wendy late Sunday evening, we could hear her children in the background asking, “Mommy, are you going to tuck us in and say Shema with us in person tonight?”
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Wendy’s release took place in these days leading up to Rosh Hashana. It’s a message to each of us as we cope with our own personal struggles: don’t give up, JewishMOM! G-d’s redemption can come in the blink of an eye, just as it did for Wendy and her husband and children.
Here’s two inspirational excerpts from letters that Wendy sent out when she was in prison written before and during this last Passover…
My cell mate is an older African American woman with extensive issues.
EXTENSIVE. She has been coughing all night for a week, getting moodier
and more mercurial, and the cough got worse although she was in denial.
I’ve heard that cough…our beloved Opa OBM died from something similar,
and we took care of him until the very end B”H.
Last night was a nightmare and today she was clearly in distress. Congnitive disconnect even more pervasive than usual and when asked by the guards she was unable to recall the date or the President of the USA. The guards do a “count” several times a day, and when she could not be roused by them for the count, they took action. She was carried off by the guards and a nurse (all of them are really excellent people with a lot of compassion) and immediately taken to the hospital. I noticed that her sheets were soiled, so the guard removed them and I disinfected the entire room, made sure her possessions (meds) were locked up properly and made arrangements for new sheets and blankets to be brought in case the hospital does not keep her.
I tell you this because the guard on duty must have thanked me 10 times. I was shocked (although very little shocks me here anymore!!) This was NOT a big deal. Small acts of chessed for a woman who has no one in the world to take care of her where no one else was willing to step up and the guards have their hands full!
HaShem has been very, very good to me and I have no complaints.
This is NOT to toot my own horn… I have to assume it is the job of every Yid
to step in where there is a NEED and act the way HaShem would want us to act.
If we can do so to honor His name…we will WIN the big prize and dance together
at the coming of Moshiach. Frankly, I’m in this life to do my small part to WIN THE BIG
From this past Passover:
I am so happy to be able to communicate with all of you about my thoughts on this Pesach. No question that I cried the entire first seder…a lot of pressure under difficult circumstances…but Baruch HaShem…we made it. The second seder, I sang (in my cell), laughed at memories of Pesach and the dreams for l’Shana haba b’Yerushalayim!!! I found the simcha…it took a while.
Here in prison, if inmates follow the rules, we are allowed the privilege of walking around the court yard during daylight hours. High barbed wire fences, cameras and guards every where I walked past one group of older inmates who were excited about the “freedom” they were enjoying in the nice weather.
The foul language, the gossip, the fights, inappropriate behaviors all around us. I choose to ignore it and walk on.
My father-in-law,OBM, would tell the story of coming home from a prison camp in Siberia and his brother offered him a bicycle to build up his strength. Opa asked him where exactly he could go…after being in prison so long, he needed to know his limits. His brother told him to go wherever you want, “You’re free”. Opa stopped at that point of the story and told me that he did not know what the word “freedom” meant any longer.
Baruch HaShem, Opa learned what freedom meant. It took him over 20 years, but he found true freedom and he never had any limits again after he became a shomer Shabbos Jew. He brought our beloved Oma (OBM) and my wonderful husband, Pinchus, into a life of Torah and mitzvos.
Is this difficult? Yes. Is it easier with FOOD (long story…enjoy whatever you can cook. My jaws are TIRED from eating pounds and pounds of baby carrots each day!) provided and your mail and emails.
However, we all share something that billions of people will NEVER know. They will never comprehend because the Torah is so BIG and so amazing that it cannot be contained behind fences and behind walls. The yoke of freedom…the Torah. Baruch HaShem…we have the TRUE GIFT OF FREEDOM.
So what do we do with this gift? We give it away when we encourage one more Yid to join us for one more mitzvah…
I love you all, your support and your dedication to OUR FREEDOM. I love you…Have a chag kasher v’samayach.
Thanks so much to JewishMOM Julie Levi for sharing this fantastic news with me…